January 18, 2021 , 3:36 am

Bill Magee dies on Christmas Evening, who served NYS Assembly for nearly 30 years

Bill Magee

For nearly three decades, William "Bill" Magee served in the New York State Assembly, championing farmers statewide and never forgetting his rural roots in Madison County.

Magee passed away Christmas Eve at the age of 81.

Before his election to the Assembly, Magee was the supervisor for the Town of Nelson. Current Lebanon town supervisor Jim Goldstein said he fondly recalls his early days serving the people of Madison County with Magee.

“I had the privilege of working with Bill Magee going back to 1983 when he and I worked on the Democratic Committee together,” Goldstein remembered. “I was the new Democratic chair from Lebanon, Bill was the Nelson supervisor, Steve Jones was the Eaton chair, a very enthusiastic Ted Dietz chaired Hamilton and Bob Haskell of Oneida was county chair.”

Goldstein said Magee always strived in Albany to make the more city-oriented government officials understand the needs of people from places like rural Madison County.

“Bill was a sensible centrist who always fought for the farmers and tried to educate downstate legislators about upstate concerns,” Goldstein assessed.

He complimented Magee for his help in enabling Lebanon to secure needed funds for road and FEMA emergency projects at the state level.

Goldstein offered his condolences to Magee’s family, adding he expects that Magee and Jones – who passed away June 2 – “are having quite the political discussion in the hereafter given their mutual love of politics and upstate New York.”

Born June 21, 1939, Magee was a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly, representing the 121st Assembly District from 1991 when he took over from John McCann until 2018 when he was succeeded by John Salka.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Assemblyman Bill Magee on Christmas Eve,” Salka posted to Facebook. “Bill and I were opponents but there was always mutual respect between us. Now that I am the sitting assemblyman I realize how tough a job it can be, and the fact that Bill was able to do such a great job for his constituents is testimony to a man that did so much good for so many people for such a long time. Rest in peace Assemblyman Bill Magee.”

A lifelong resident of Nelson, Magee earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University in 1961. He became a well-known auctioneer around the area, both traveling to auctions and also hosting them himself at his own Magee’s Auction House in Nelson. His Nelson home on Route 20 was a popular site along the scenic county byway as Magee had a bright red old firetruck parked out in front.

Nelson Preservation Associates, Inc. recently purchased Magee’s Auction House on Route 20 in Nelson – a building eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places – with plans to preserve the history of the building. They expect to rehabilitate the property to create new opportunities for both economic and community use, said NPA spokesperson Tracy Carman.

Magee was elected to the Madison County Board of Supervisors in 1972, serving there for 19 years prior to his election to the Assembly. Magee also worked at the New York State Fair from 1985 to 1990. Among his Assembly assignments were the chair position on the agriculture committee, a role obviously close to his heart.

New York Farm Bureau president David Fisher said the Farm Bureau’s members and staff were sad to hear of the passing of such a major proponent for state agriculture.

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